Roy Acebedo’s family history was one of riches to rags. His father Norberto once owned a trucking business which folded up, forcing the latter to find work at Marcelo Steel Corp. However, he lost this job when he helped organize a strike at the company. At that point, Norberto left his wife and four children with his in-laws in Manila to try his luck in his home province of Leyte.
As eldest among his siblings, Roy took his new responsibilities seriously. He was delivering newspapers by the time he was in second grade, suffering the wet and cold of rainy days. His grandfather Chimo Hermoso gave him a piece of advice, saying that if he wanted to help his family, he should study hard so he could land a good job. It was this advice that guided Roy’s schooling years, and pushed him to achieve high grades in school.
As brother and friend, Roy was caring and loving. He and his siblings did their lessons together, with Roy patiently helping the younger ones. He entertained them with stories from school. Friends trooped to the Hermoso house for a game of checkers or for help with schoolwork, especially math, which was Roy’s favorite subject.
Roy’s other hobby was carving, making wooden toys and painting them for his younger siblings. Roy was polite with the elders, kissing his grandparent’s hands, and stayed away from vices like smoking or drinking, and had never been known to get into fights or even say swear words.
Activism, for Roy, was an extension of his humanity. In college, he helped form a group of teachers and students in engineering and the sciences which they called Pambansang Samahan ng Inhinyeria at Agham. This group pushed for reform in the schools and for improved facilities. Roy was once very angry with school officials at PLM for spending huge amounts on curtains while the school laboratories lacked test tubes. He became a member of the PLM Student Council.
He became active in the important events of the early 1970s including the First Quarter Storm, the Diliman Commune, and many protest actions before and after President Ferdinand Marcos suspended the right of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971. He gained a name as that formidable student leader from PLM.
Roy left school to avoid arrest when Marcos declared martial law in 1972. He found work as a laborer at the Marcelo Steel Corporation in Sta. Ana, Manila. He became a member of KASAMA, a workers’ group.
In July, 1973, the military raided the family house in Sta. Ana, looking for Roy’s brother Nolito, who was also an activist. Not finding him, they proceeded to the steel factory and arrested Roy. They also put his mother Andrea under house arrest.
Roy was taken to Camp Crame, where he suffered torture for several days. He was beaten up and subjected to water cure and electrocution of his genitals. When Roy was finally shown to his mother he could hardly stand and was spitting and urinating blood. Roy was kept at the Ipil Rehabilitation Center in Fort Bonifacio for 8 months.
After his release in May 1974, Roy found work at the Connel Brothers in Makati. In the succeeding months, he was messenger, checker and then distributor of canned goods.
In February of 1975, Roy and his brother Nolito left for Mindanao to work fulltime as peasant organizers in the anti-martial law resistance. He did it, Roy said, “… para may maiambag ako sa pagpapalaya ng sambayanan.”
Roy lived only a few months in Mindanao. Unfamiliar with the territory, Roy depended on local contacts, and was easily detected by the military and the local militia and paramilitary troops. The military raided one of the meetings Roy was in and in the chase that followed, Roy and a comrade were captured. Roy had stopped to help this comrade who stumbled.
The local people who witnessed what happened later said that the two comrades were brought to a cemetery, ordered to dig, and then killed. Roy was severely tortured. Before they were buried, the soldiers paraded the corpses around the community.
Roy’s family did not learn of his fate until years later. For decades, they regarded him as a desaparecido of the martial law government. Roy’s name is still included at FIND’s Bantayog ng mga Desaparecidos / Flame of Courage Monument at the Redemptorist Church grounds in Baclaran. He was only 24 years old when he died. His remains have not been recovered.